A look at Sober October

A look at Sober October

For people who wish to moderate their alcohol intake or give it up entirely, it sometimes helps to be among like-minded people. New events such as Dry January and more recently Sober October have become big events which give individuals encouragement and the challenge of going a whole month without drinking.

Dry January started from a few conversations in 2011/12 but really took off in 2013 when Alcohol Concern (the national charity which helps to reduce the problems caused by alcohol) launched their campaign, with virtually no budget and a basic website. 4,350 people took part that year and in every subsequent year the numbers have snowballed, with 50,000 people taking part in 2015 and 3.2 million participants in January 2018! An app launched in 2016 helped participants track progress and get a sense of accomplishment, one day at a time. A participant in 2018 said “The app has helped me a lot. I look forward to updating my progress each day and feeling good for it. It's something to spur me on.” NHS trusts, workplaces and even more surprisingly pubs all got behind the campaign and the media coverage means it is now an incredibly popular event.

It has been so successful in terms of engaging the public that the offshoot, Sober October, is also starting to see increased public take up. It started in 2013 as a fundraising event organised by Macmillan Cancer Care, who had noted the success of Dry July in Australia which had raised millions of dollars for the charity.

Sober October continues today, and individuals and teams are encouraged to get sponsored by family and friends to support Macmillan and to use social media to publicise their journey. The campaign has some light-hearted touches such as the ‘Golden Ticket’ which is effectively a pass for a day when you would like to have a drink. However, the ticket (which you can buy for yourself or others), is priced at a £15 donation to the charity. Sober October has now become ‘bigger’ than the charity event and in 2017, an estimated 1.8 million people took up the challenge.

Robust, long-term research into the effects of these campaigns, which have been joined by Cancer Research’s dryathlon, is lacking. However, most health experts are delighted with the results. Public Health England has given its backing to Dry January, commenting "Dry January is based on sound behavioural principles and our previous evaluation of the campaign shows that for some people it can help them re-set their drinking patterns for weeks or even months after completing the challenge." The individuals taking part in the challenge report feeling energised and having better sleep. According to statistics released by Alcohol Concern, of the many who complete Dry January, 49% lose weight, 62% sleep better and, unsurprisingly, 79% save money. We can also see from social media offerings that participants are themselves reporting a lot of positive progress during their months of abstinence.

Although to some, going cold turkey for a month may be a challenge and swapping cocktails for mocktails is not something that comes naturally to them, but the support that people achieve through taking part in these mass events and the results that are achieved mean that these initiatives are likely to continue to thrive.

Kolibri Drinks comments on trends and does not offer health advice. If you feel you need more information because of an addiction Rehab 4 Addiction offers a free helpline dedicated to helping those suffering from drug, alcohol and mental health issues. Rehab 4 Addiction was founded in 2011 by people who overcame addiction themselves. You can contact Rehab 4 Addiction on 0800 140 4690.

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